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seth h. bramson
 

From Progressive Railroading Magazine.

FRA to award grant for Gulf Coast passenger-rail service

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Amtrak service to the Gulf Coast has not been restored since Hurricane Katrina damaged rail infrastructure there in 2005. Photo – Marc Glucksman/Amtrak

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced a $33 million grant will be awarded to help fund the restoration of passenger-rail service along the U.S. Gulf Coast, the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) reported late last week.

The SRC applied for the grant from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. The commission has been working on restoring passenger-rail service to the Gulf Coast since service ended 14 years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated rail infrastructure there.

The federal CRISI grant will be matched with commitments from the state of Mississippi; the Mississippi Department of Transportation; the city of Mobile, Alabama; Amtrak and private partners. The grant funds also will be paired with priority investments from Louisiana, according to a press release issued by the SRC and Transportation for America.

The restored service will stop four times a day in New Orleans, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula. Capital investments to restore passenger-rail service also will benefit freight traffic, and the SRC intends to support port access and circulation, commission officials said.

Efforts to restore Gulf Coast service have been bipartisan among the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, Alabama SRC commissioners, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and members of Congress, according to the SRC.

Amtrak has shown a "consistent commitment" to the project by providing an inspection train in 2016; working to minimize freight-rail conflict; and contributing matching funds for the CRISI grant application, commission officials said.

"Amtrak has strong state and local partners in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana,” said Amtrak President Richard Anderson in the SRC press release. “The Mobile-New Orleans route exemplifies the type of short corridor service Amtrak wants to establish throughout the nation.”